This is a very interesting and fascinating book with a little bit of an identity crisis. As a primer into the world of the interconnected of fungi with animal life, human life, plant life, and ecosystems this popular science text is a really eye-opening text. Sheldrake is effective at being a passionate advocate for fungi awareness, as well as predicted skepticism at some of the claims made here and addressing them as he goes. He presents an overview of the research, the history of research, and some understanding of the future. He also is effective at attempting to capture…not the complexity itself of the integrated and entangled systems, but at the impossibility to narrate and capture that complexity.
The identity crisis comes into play as he starts to investigate a very interesting problem he faces as a writer, but also one that doesn’t seem neatly fitted into this book. How can human language and metaphor adequately explain what we know and don’t know about these complex systems. So this book becomes a sneaky epistemology text as well. In the last 60-70 years or so, many philosophers and linguists have turned to the natural world looking for appropriate metaphors to describe human knowledge, human language, human society, and human networks. Deleuze used rhizome roots to explain complexity, Foucault used networking systems, and mathematics used chaos theory to speculate on prediction models. Here, we almost have the inverse: a real search for appropriate human metaphor to explain how other organisms present preference, desire, will, and other human concepts. This book struggles with it, but in that struggle there’s an intellectual honesty that is really interesting. I waited 90% through the book to get a Donna Haraway reference, and I got one. The issue is that these two halves don’t fit neatly together in this text.